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Remembering the Legacy of T. Rex's Marc Bolan on His Birthday

Most Americans know Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex for their 1971 hit "(Bang a Gong) Get It On," but in the U.K., the group was a national phenomenon. Some accountants claimed at the time that these glam gods' records added up to some six percent of the country's domestic record sales. Their albums Electric Warrior and The Slider (no relation to a plate of tiny burgers, BTW) are national treasures.

Bolan, born Mark Feld, fell for rock 'n' roll after discovering Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and Chuck Berry. The singer inspired leagues of young cross-dressers with his top hat, feather boa, and a modish topcoat. He was the proverbial urchin, with his waif-like stature and preoccupation with wizards, stars, white swans, and all sorts of astrological and celestial elements.

Originally taking the stage name "Toby Tyler," he later opted for the moniker "Marc Bolan," supposedly a compressed combination of Bob and Dylan. Part David Bowie, part Incredible String Band, Bolan enjoyed a short stint in the otherwise obscure band John's Children before creating Tyrannosaurus Rex, a free-spirited hippie duo that featured the singer on acoustic guitar, with quirky, quivery vocals, and all manner of percussion courtesy of drummer Steve Took, who was later replaced by Mickey Finn. Shortening their title to T. Rex and adding a full rhythm section, thus electrifying their sound, brought T. Rex to us all. 
The fascination with glam had begun to fade and punk was already taking its place by the time of Bolan's death in a car accident on September 16, 1977. But his influence still lingers on through some of the following artists.

* Singer Ty Segall released an EP called Ty Rex that contained six T. Rex songs for Record Store Day in 2011. 
* In 1980, a New Jersey power pop band called the Bongos covered T Rex's "Mambo Sun" and made the Billboard charts in the process. Bongos main man Richard Barone subsequently recorded other Bolan compositions, and on his latest solo album, Glow, he not only covered the song "Girl" (from Electric Warrior) but collaborated with Bolan's one time producer Tony Visconti in doing the recording.

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Lee Zimmerman

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